Samsung has just released a new commercial for their new flagship phone, the Galaxy S4... and it's pretty good. The sheer size of the Galaxy S4 is evident in the ad, as are features like Drama Mode, which lets you capture a series of images -- think multi-exposure sports pics -- and Air Gestures that let you navigate without touching the screen with sticky -- in this case tasty rib covered -- fingers. Some of the other features, like Hover, which feels like a terrible violation of Fitts' law, and S Beam, which is like Bump over NFC, are a tad more gimmicky, and more demo-ware than software, but they come off okay in commercials for just that reason. (Samsung even suggests their screens support smell capture, which was probably a bad idea since injecting farce into an otherwise real, if strange, feature set only creates confusion.)
Samsung's also packing a one-two punch here: not only are they showing off what they consider to be feature differentiation, they're doing their best to make Apple and the iPhone look lame by comparison. Previously they attacked iPhone owners, which probably wasn't the best of ideas. Now the focus is more squarely on the iPhone as a product. Also, unlike the nowhere nearly as good Nokia Windows Phone commercial, they're doing it without promoting Apple's brand.
Apple has incredible brand power and image, and people want to own Apple stuff because of it. Every strength is a weakness as well, however, and attacking the brand, trying to make it seem like Apple is not as advanced or cool anymore, is an effective strategy. It makes Apple seem vincible.
So how does Apple counter-program assaults on its brand image? Does it make a similar commercial showing the Galaxy S4 not fitting in skinny hipster jean pockets, not working well one handed, harming eyes with vintage Soviet-era interface utilitarianism, and piquing frustration through seemingly random and unfathomable feature sets?
I'm not a huge fan of the GS4 in general. I find it too big, too plastic, and too incoherent as a product compared to other offerings on the market. But I do appreciate the sheer amount of technology, both hardware and software, Samsung is putting behind the GS4. Apple tends to be very conservative. Samsung is the opposite of that. They push out as many ideas as they can, as quickly as they can, and while not all of those ideas will be good, the ones that are will likely get picked up faster because of it. Sort of like the PCs of old.
Along those lines, it'd be fun to see Samsung as the new "beige box" of computing -- "I'm an iPhone... and I'm an Android phone...." That might make for an amazing call-back. Yet despite their phenomenal global sales, Samsung is still trailing Apple in the US market, and until that changes, we'll probably see Apple stick to subtler, more powerful commercials like their recent ad Photos Every Day.
Samsung has marketing dollars in the billions. They're going to keep pushing the Galaxy S4, and they're going to keep doing it at Apple's expense. So far, Apple hasn't spent nearly as much on commercials, nor focused anywhere nearly as overtly on Samsung. Check out the Samsung ad above and let me know what you think of it in the comments below. With Samsung targeting Apple's image, should Apple fight back and how?
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.